MARK Bower has admitted that he only had NINE available outfield players for Bradford (Park Avenue)’s game at York City, as their big New Year derby, scheduled for Sunday, was called off.

Avenue announced on Saturday morning that the National League North encounter at the LNER Community Stadium had had to be postponed due to a Covid event at the club, and manager Bower has revealed just how deep that problem ran.

He said: “We had bad news come through with Covid on Friday night and Saturday morning, and it meant that we’d have been left with nine outfield players, our two goalkeepers, and one member of coaching staff for the game against York.

“We’d played through up until then, and we had a couple of lads missing due to Covid for our draw at Guiseley last week.

“We wanted to play as many games as we could in this little period, as there’s so many to accommodate and it’s not ideal having a load of midweek games later in the season due to call-offs now.

“But with Covid, and injuries, you just have to accept that there’ll be times when we’re understrength later in the season, and we’ll probably play against teams who have a few missing too.

“We’ll all have to deal with it, and we don’t want a fixture pile-up, so as long as we have 14 fit players (as the National League’s Covid-19 protocols require for the game to go ahead), then we’ll fulfil our games.”

Bower added: “There’s not much you can do other than get bodies in.

“We want to add to the squad but that’s difficult with all the uncertainty around Covid at the moment.

“We had one player lined up to join us, but he’s staying at his club now because of that virus uncertainty.

“Even though we have a small squad, we’re not the only ones suffering, as Fylde had to call their game off on Sunday due to a Covid outbreak at the club, and they’re at the opposite end of the scale to us in terms of finances and resources.

“It affects everyone, and we’ve played games when others had been called off due to Covid, that’s just the way it goes.”

Avenue are due to host Chester on Saturday and Gateshead next Monday, and there is some potentially good news on that front.

Bower said: “As it stands, we should hopefully be back fine for Chester and Gateshead.

“The vast majority of players are only having to isolate, and they haven’t tested positive for the virus itself.

“Their isolation periods will be ending before this weekend, so subject to them continuing to return negative lateral flow tests, we’re optimistic about those two games going ahead.”